“So, that is….”
That’s how Kerber started to talk about the internal situation of the Strabus Kingdom.
The Strabus Kingdom tried to get the aristocrats to participate in the constant war of attrition with the Republic. One method to increase participation was to have nobles who committed crimes join the war as low-ranking commanders.
“You’re telling me, criminals are joining the war effort as officers?” Milton asked with a dumbfounded look.
Normally, when a criminal joins a war, they were forced to join as convict soldiers. However, these people joined as officers to have their crimes forgiven.
“Well, they’re still nobles. This is offered to nobles with minor crimes and not when the crimes are serious.”
“I see. So, what crimes have those three committed to be stationed here?” Milton asked.
Kerber made a bitter smile.
“Marez Cardia and Butland Rigor were delinquent on their taxes. At least that’s what’s been stated, but the reality is closer to embezzlement.”
“I don’t feel so bad for them.”
“Right. As a result, they have been conscripted to this fortress for five years.”
“How about the other one?”
“Louis Walker, even I don’t know what crimes he has committed. However, seeing as how he has a life sentence here, it must have been somewhat serious.”
“Hmm… I see.”
“Yes. That’s why they show enmity to people like us who voluntarily joined the war effort. Unlike them, we can leave whenever we want.”
“So, that’s how it is.”
Honestly, Milton wasn’t in any position to freely depart whenever he wanted either.
‘I still have my debt to pay.’
Milton had his own internal struggles, but he was adapting well to life at the Crow Fortress. He completed all his regularly scheduled reconnaissance missions without any issues. Even during his downtime, he constantly trained under Jerome’s guidance. Such hard work was looked upon favorably by all the bystanders.
“Is Viscount Forrest training again today?”
“He’s such an impressive person. How can a commander be so diligent?”
Such hard work from Milton generated plenty of praise and raised his reputation within the fortress. Milton’s actions were truly admirable compared to the other commanders, who spent all their time drinking when off duty. Of course, there was a reason why Milton was trying so hard.
‘Can I rest in peace given my current situation? I need to train hard.’
Prior to being awakened to Park Moonsoo’s memories, Milton was complacent with his training.
He was told he had plenty of talent and potential at the academy. However, Milton lazed away with the rotten mindset that his future was already secure as a noble. If he had joined the knight order at the capital his situation may have been a lot better.
Since the commander, Milton, was constantly training, all the soldiers and even mercenaries under him had to train as well. It was an undeniable truth of all military institutions that shit rolls downhill. 
Then one day…
“100-man commander, the 1000-man commander is looking for you.”
“At this time?”
“Yes. It must be an important matter since he ordered all 100-man commanders to report to him immediately.”
Milton stopped training and headed over to Nelson’s office. The other four 100-man commanders were already there by the time Milton got to the office.
Nelson spoke with a serious look on his face, “You’re all here. I’ll explain why I’ve gathered you all on such short notice.”
Nelson took out a map with a grave expression before getting to the point.
“There have been sightings of a lot of the Republic’s forces on the move. The number of troops is expected to be over 10,000.”
“Are they looking to go into an all-out war?
The 100-man commanders looked serious as they felt a sense of crisis.
However, Milton thought differently.
‘10,000? It’s not a small number, but it’s not enough for a full out frontal assault.’
All the battles on the Western Front up to this point have been relatively small, with none of the battles surpassing 300 men. Compared to that, 10,000 was certainly a large number.
Milton was puzzled, but Nelson Cardinal, who had been stationed at the Western Front for a long time, already knew what the enemy had in mind.
“Those bastards probably aren’t looking to expand their territory, but rather to decimate our numbers.”
It was natural to reduce enemy numbers whenever possible, but it was usually never the sole purpose for moving troops. The reduction of enemy forces was never the goal of war, it was just one of its byproducts.
‘For that to be the goal would mean…’
Milton had a sudden flash of insight.
“Does that mean there’s a problem with the Hildess Republic’s army at the Western Front?”
Nelson looked impressed by Milton’s words as he replied, “Hoh… You catch on fast.”
Nelson then continued with the explanation.
“Those bastards seem to have gone through a severe famine this year. Their country was never known for its harvest, but it’ll still put them in a tough situation.”
“Indeed… So that’s the reason. That’s why they prepared this mass offensive.”
Milton was able to quickly understand the situation from Nelson’s words.
“Do you understand the situation?”
“Yes. I have a good idea of it.”
“Go ahead and tell us what you think.”
At Nelson’s curious urging, Milton calmly explained his thoughts.
“What the enemy is probably going for….”
Milton thought the goal of the Hildess Republic’s invasion was to preemptively strike the Strabus Kingdom to stop them from attacking in the future. As food became precious due to the famine, it would be hard to secure any military rations. The troops would naturally become weaker as a result.
Even if an army was full of disciplined elites and was led by a superb strategist, there was nothing to fear about them if they ran out of food. Thus, the Hildess Republic was afraid the Strabus Kingdom would attack them in their weakened state.
That was why they chose to make a preemptive attack. Their goal was to do as much damage to the Strabus Kingdom as possible while food was still abundant.
“…is what I surmise. Was I wrong?”
The other 100-man commanders had a slight look of admiration once Milton was done with his explanation. Nelson also had a smile on his face.
“You are correct.”
Nelson nodded his head at Milton and continued, “If you know that much, you probably have an idea of how we should respond.”
‘What’s going on here? I feel like I’m taking a test on tactics at the academy.’
Milton felt a bit annoyed by Nelson’s repeated questioning but managed to answer without difficulty.
“Since we know of the enemy’s goal, our priority should be to stop them from achieving it.”
Milton took a sip of water from the cup on the table before proceeding.
“The enemy’s goal this time is to cause enough damage to us so that we can’t mount our own offensive. In other words, the enemy’s efforts will be futile if we firmly protect the Western Front. Then, if we take our troops to attack, once the snow from winter has melted, they won’t be able to do a thing without military rations.”
Pointing at the map, Milton continued speaking with conviction, “Meaning, if we do well in stopping this offensive, we can move the Western Front forward significantly next spring.”
Nelson slowly clapped at Milton’s thorough explanation.
Clap clap clap…
“Impressive. Did you say you graduated from the Knight Academy of the Lester Kingdom?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
‘I just attended the minimum number of classes.’
“You must have graduated at the top of your class. Very impressive.”
“No, not quite….”
‘I barely managed to graduate.’
“Hahaha… There’s no need to be so humble.”
‘It’s not being humble at all, my dude.’
It seemed Nelson’s evaluation of Milton was much higher than before.
Nelson then looked at everyone before speaking, “As you just heard, the enemy’s main goal is to do as much damage as possible to our frontline. Therefore, we will concentrate on our defense and repel their offensive. Keep in mind that our situation next spring will be greatly affected by how well we stop their current attacks.”
Kerber then spoke up from beside Milton, “1000-man commander, if the enemy is set on attacking, wouldn’t it be difficult to stop them with just the forces we have in the Crow Fortress?”
“Don’t worry. I’ve already put in a request for reinforcements from the rear. 1,000 reserve troops will join the fortress.
Even if 10,000 enemy troops were to march for battle, given how harsh the terrain of the Grey Mountains were, it was unlikely for all the forces to be concentrated at one point. They would most likely spread out their forces and attack the entirety of the Western Front.
“1000-man commander, I believe it’s prudent to notify the other fortresses of the enemy’s movements and to ask them to fortify their defenses.”
Regardless of how tightly their base was guarded, if another base was to crumble the entirety of the Western Front would take a hit.
“That’s true. We should send a message just in case. Does anyone else have an opinion?”
“We need to check and repair the wooden barricade. We also need to check our supplies.”
“Very well, I will appoint that task to you 100-commander Milton Forrest. It’ll be your responsibility.”
Other items were discussed back and forth, and Milton was the one to lead most of the discussions.
Kerber came over to talk to Milton once the meeting was over.
“You’re really impressive. You have a very good eye for war tactics, Sir Forrest.”
“I don’t deserve such praise, Sir Francis.”
“Not at all. Even the 1000-man commander seems to have been highly impressed by your vision for war.”
Milton was able to gain Nelson’s trust and ingrained an image of superiority over the other 100-man commanders. Kerber admired Milton and wholeheartedly praised him. However, not everyone had a big heart like Kerber.
‘He’s really getting on my nerves, that worthless country noble from a small kingdom….’
Louis Walker couldn’t hide his envy as he glared at Milton’s back. Meanwhile, Butland Rigor and Marez Cardinal felt jealous of Milton, but at the same time admitted that he was impressive. However, Louis could not find anything impressive about Milton and remained jealous of the latter.
‘There’s no guarantee that the bastard's words are right. I don’t understand what makes the 1000-man commander have such faith in his words.
Louis thought Milton’s words were incorrect. He didn’t really have a basis for it. If he really had to pick a reason, it was because his pride wouldn’t allow him to admit that a country bumpkin from a small kingdom, like Milton, had skills surpassing his own. He then thought that he had to prove Milton was wrong.
‘I’ll show you.’
Any given organization would normally have an individual with such thoughts and hence stirred trouble.
The 10,000 enemy troops started to cross the Grey Mountains. As Milton predicted, the forces were not concentrated in any one area.
In the first place, the enemy was also familiar with the harsh terrain of the Grey Mountains. No matter how strong and familiar the Hildess Republic’s forces were in mountain warfare, the terrain of the Grey Mountains was too harsh to command all 10,000 troops in one place. Instead, the 10,000 troops were divided into multiple parts and began to attack the fortresses of the Grey Mountains together in a wave.
There were ten fortresses set up in the Grey Mountains to defend the Western Front. All ten fortresses were being attacked without rest, and the Crow Fortress was no exception.
The archers on top of the Fortress loosened their arrows under Nelson Cardinal’s command. The arrows flew and fell on the Hildess Republic’s forces as they advanced on the fortress. The Hildess Republic’s forces blocked the arrows with their shields while steadily advancing forward.
“Charge! Sweep off the fools of the Republic!”
A group of soldiers jumped out ferociously as the doors to the fortress opened.
1. The author actually used the phrase “위가 뛰면 밑에는 구르는 시늉이라도 해야”, which literally translates to when a superior is running the subordinates have to at least pretend to roll around. This just didn’t translate well into English, so I instead used the phrase “shit rolls downhill”.